Take Us Out to the Ball Game

by RaeAnne Marsh

Arizona Diamondbacks 

Inside Chase Field while the Diamondbacks play the Rockies

“We have really had to reinvent ourselves, both with and without fans,” says Derrick Hall, president and CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks. For the 2020 season, as we all remember, fans were not allowed in stadiums, so the challenge was to manufacture the look and feel of a real game for both players on the field and viewers at home. Piping in crowd noise helped simulate some sense of normalcy, Hall says, although he admits it was nowhere near the real thing. “We also decided to bring fans to Chase Field from their homes, as we conducted virtual first pitches and anthem performances.”

Derrick Hall, president and CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks

Derrick Hall, president and CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks

This season, the Diamondbacks have focused on the return of fans in a safe and comfortable manner. “We converted all purchases and transactions to cashless, and have made the entire experience contactless,” Hall says. And while the early homestands have required stronger protocols — with masks, distancing and zip-tied and prohibited seats — Hall expects there will be a loosening of restrictions, reallocation of locations and additional seating that will continue as the season progresses.

Pointing out that the ball club is the business of performing in front of crowds yet was either prohibited from allowing them in or limited in their capacity, Hall reports the organization lost millions of dollars in 2020 and will again this season. “In 2020 alone, some of our most valuable areas of profit such as tickets sold, concessions, merchandise and parking resulted in zero earnings,” he says. “But all categories were impacted, as we had to get creative in make-goods for all of our corporate partners, while rolling over as many season ticket holder and suite accounts into the next season as possible.”

The Economic Roller Coaster

“We were entering 2020 debt free for the first time in our franchise’s history,” Hall relates. But no crowds or revenue sources meant needing to look internally to find ways to reduce expenses. “This part hurt the most,” Hall shares, “because although we attempted to do so by dramatically reducing departmental budgets, we knew we could not ignore the need to address staffing and overhead. 

“We are proud of our recognized and celebrated culture, but with so much uncertainty in the air, we had no choice but to likely negatively impact that. We were forced to furlough, eliminate positions, or assist with early retirement in several cases.” This did, in fact, provide significant savings, Hall says, but combined with so many months of remote work, “it has given us a prioritized need to recreate those strong feelings of family and value we have for our talented employees.”

Staying Strong and Moving Forward 

Hall believes sports — and baseball in particular — is beginning to feel some pandemic and economic recovery. “Baseball has always been a huge part of that recovery historically, be it after world wars or 911 or COVID-19. It has always been the great escape for families and is shaping up to act as such again,” says Hall. As they are able to loosen restrictions, allow season ticket holders to return to their original seats and expand capacity, Hall anticipates fans will enthusiastically go through the turnstiles. “It helps to have a winning product, and we are working on that long-term and sustainable model,” he says. “But regardless of win or lose, our fans have grown accustomed to receiving the greatest fan experience in sports at our games, and I am very bullish on our future and the ability to again consistently draw more than two million a year in attendance.”

Arizona Diamondbacks is one segment of the June 2021 cover story “Fun Is Our Business: Survivors of a year that’s been anything but fun.” 

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